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Baker Banking On A Champagne Return

By Ray Hickson

There are options aplenty this spring for talented mare Champagne Cuddles and trainer Bjorn Baker is confident she can give him plenty to think about after her first-up assignment at Rosehill on Saturday.

Champagne Cuddles recorded four Group 1 placings last season and while Baker is keen to claim a major he hasn’t given up on a last-minute Everest berth.

But that would require a decent statement to be made in the Group 2 $200,000 Irresistible Pools Sheraco Stakes (1200m).

“We’ll take it as we see it. She did a great job last season and I think she will kick off well,’’ Baker said.

“She’s still a chance to get into the Everest but there are races like the Golden Pendant in a couple of weeks.’’

The four-year-old is a $51 chance in the TAB Everest market but she’s the $3.20 favourite to make it four wins from five first-up attempts.

She started last preparation with a track record win over 1200m at the Gold Coast and Baker said she’s held some residual fitness from the Queensland campaign.

Champagne Cuddles wins a barrier trial at Gosford on August 30

“She’s in good order, her two trials have been good,’’ he said.

“I’m really happy with her, she’s drawn one and that’s the shortest way home. I’d like to think she’s continuing to get better.

“We’ll find out a bit more on Saturday. I think 1200m will suit her and a little bit of cut in the track.’’

While more than upbeat about Champagne Cuddles, Baker is loath to overlook stablemate Egyptian Symbol ($9) who returned to form winning the Group 3 Toy Show (1300m) at Randwick last month.

Punters Intel showed Egyptian Symbol was able to set up her last start win in the first 500m by running 31.24 and controlling the tempo.

“I don’t think her go is leading and 1300m is not her go but she got away with it and class carried her a long way,’’ Baker said.

“She’s been a great advertisement in the stable and she goes into the race with a good chance.’’

Prolific country mare Lake Lugarno ($17) finally makes her debut for Baker in the Zyrtec Spring Sprint (1100m) some four years after he bought her for $10,000 as a yearling.

The six-year-old was trained by Forbes trainer Barry Molloy to nine wins from 21 starts and returned to Baker after she was sold for $60,000 at a broodmare sale earlier this year.

“It’s funny how she’s come full circle. I wanted another crack with her,’’ Baker said.

“It’s a tough race but we’ve got to kick her off somewhere. Her two trials have been really good.’’

Baker said he hasn’t given up on Impavido ($10) winning the Iron Jack Handicap (1800m) despite drawing the outside barrier in the final event – “It might be the best place, we’ll go back from the gate and hopefully have a bit of luck.’’

All the fields, form and replays for Saturday's Everest Carnival kick off at Rosehill Gardens

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